Thursday, October 30, 2008

Barak wants more funds for rocket fortification

Defense minister to seek additional half billion shekels for project to fortify homes within range of Gaza rockets, wants to see project expand to include communities in 4.7 km (2.9 mi) range
Roni Sofer

With the High Court of Justice still deliberating on an appeal filed by Israeli towns in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip demanding all residential buildings in a 4.5 km (2.79 mi) radius of the Hamas-ruled enclave be fortified – Defense Minister Ehud Barak is seeking to expand that range to 4.7km (2.93 mi), Ynet learned on Wednesday The new boundary proposed by Barak would ensure all buildings outside the range of the 'Iron Dome' rocket defense system, which is not yet operational, would be fortified against projectile attacks emanating from Gaza.

Barak and his deputy, Matan Vilnai, are expected to demand the allocation of an additional NIS 500 million ($132 million) at the next cabinet meeting.

This being a transit government, however, makes Barak's chances of seeing his proposal budgeted are meager.

Fortifying homes in Sderot (Photo: Gadi Kabalo)

Barak and Vilnai have long-since demanded of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to take advantage of the ceasefire with Gaza's armed groups to complete the fortification project.

The Defense Ministry has warned that a failure to do so now would mean residents of the western Negev are liable to find themselves in a highly-vulnerable situation if the truce collapses.

The ministry says that over the past five months, homes in Gaza-vicinity communities have been fortified at a cost of NIS 370 million ($97 million), a budget which was approved by the government in February 2008.

The additional NIS 500 million, says the ministry, would allow the state to ensure every house in range of Palestinian rockets would have a fortified room to take shelter in.

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